New Wheat Varieties Most Popular With Prairie Farmers

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“For most of the last century, Prairie wheat acres were dominated by just two or three different varieties, but that’s all changed now”

Western Canadian farmers continue to embrace promising new varieties of wheat and durum, according to the 2009 CWB Variety Survey.

“For most of the last century, Prairie wheat acres were dominated by just two or three different varieties, but that’s all changed now,” CWB agronomist Mike Grenier said. “Today’s farmer is experimenting with a range of newly developed plant lines that can address very specific agricultural needs.”

A solid-stem wheat variety named Lillian, first introduced in 2006, has been the most popular on the Prairies for the past three years because of its resistance to sawfly damage and improved yield potential. It currently comprises 17.5 per cent of western Canadian wheat acres. The number two variety, Harvest, was first seeded in 2005 and is now grown on 16 per cent of wheat acres.

Previously prominent varieties AC Barrie, McKenzie and Superb remain in the top five, but are all declining. “We’ve seen a trend over the past few years of relatively quick changes in the top 12 varieties, as farmers try out new types of wheat that show improved yield or other agronomic attributes,” Grenier said.

Farmers’ choice of varieties is also becoming increasingly localized to suit regional needs. For example, neither of the top two varieties is grown in Manitoba, which has some unique agronomic issues. Kane is the top CWRS variety in Manitoba, where farmers value its resistance to sprouting and disease, particularly against fusarium head blight.

Two classes dominate Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) and Canada Western Amber Durum (CWAD) account for 91 per cent of Prairie wheat production, with seven minor classes making up the remaining nine per cent. Of those, Canada Western Red Winter wheat is the largest, thanks to improved winter hardiness and disease resistance. Winter wheat has expanded from 100,000 acres in 1990 to more than a million acres in the past two years.

For durum, Strongfield continues to dominate, increasing in 2009 to 63 per cent of all CWAD acres. This resulted in declining acreage for AC Avonlea and Kyle, at 17 per cent and nine per cent respectively, with AC Navigator holding steady at just under 10 per cent.

For barley, malting varieties accounted for 65 per cent of total acres, mostly two-row varieties like AC Metcalfe, which continues to be most popular and CDC Copeland. Harrington, the dominant variety until 1998, is now seeded on less than two per cent of barley acres.

More than 7,600 farmers participated in this year’s variety survey, with more than 36 per cent filing online. Farmers can examine detailed information using an innovative online tool for easy viewing of charts, customized graphs and maps showing information down to the crop district at http://www.cwb.ca/public/en/farmers/surveys/variety/09-10/

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